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For many Torontonians, words failed to describe the shock and grief of Monday’s van attack at Yonge and Finch. Here’s how Toronto’s poet laureate tried to capture that speechlessness

Members of a Canadian Muslim group pray near the site of the deadly van attack at Yonge Street and Finch Avenue in Toronto.Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

Anne Michaels is the poet laureate of Toronto.

What words can be spoken in response to such horror? No words. Shocked silence. And yet it is exactly at these times poetry is reached for and is most needed – perhaps not even for what it says, but for how it listens. Some poems are born of silence, others from speechlessness. This is a poem that was born of speechlessness. The family of Anne Marie D’Amico, the first victim of Monday’s attack to be identified, made a public statement of extraordinary generosity – the most profound and courageous statement born of speechlessness. This, in part, is what they said:

in darkness, love cries out

all night it grows, the wall of flowers, prayers, solace, spontaneous, immediate, a thousand names, ten thousand, a ribbon of whiteboard with its prayers a blockade against the dark glowing under the moon and stars, the moon and stars that remain in the sky when day comes

invisible, they do not disappear offering their proof the lost will not be lost

we hold them close

we will form a circle of millions around them our dead, our wounded, our witnesses, our families we will not surrender how we love we will not surrender those we love

we will not surrender them to the dark

we will starve the dark, give it nothing

we are love’s lamentation, love’s consolation, our love reaches every corner of the city we know hope is not a luxury

what we give cannot be taken from us

feel how you are needed

let love answer

Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail